The men's draw for the 2012 edition of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami is set. It features the 2011 men's player of year, Novak Djokovic
who heads one side of the draw and this century's Clay King, Rafael Nadal
, on the other side.
The 3rd and 4th seeds, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray, have landed in Novak Djokovic's half and Rafael Nadal's half respectively.
Miami's hard court playing conditions have been one of the slowest on the tour, similar to Indian Wells. It usually does not bounce as high as Indian Wells, but the usual humidity in the area makes conditions slower. There has been some talk that the court conditions are somewhat faster this year, but I cannot confirm this.
Last week's play at Indian Wells showed how conditions can change from day to day depending on the weather and affect play. The usual hot dry conditions favoring higher bounces, turned relatively cold, windy, and wet for the final two days of the tournament, and the ball was clearly bouncing lower as a result. Roger Federer took full advantage of this and hammered Rafael Nadal and John Isner to win his 3rd title of the year and a record 4th Indian Wells title. We will see what happens in Miami.
Here is the quarter by quarter analysis:
Novak Djokovic has failed to make it to the finals in his last two tournaments. I feel he needs to make a stand in Miami to get his mojo back in time for the clay season to mount any sort of challenge to Rafael Nadal.
Can he do it? His section of the quarter should be pretty easy for him. His main challenge will come from the other section of his quarter, where I believe Juan Martin Del Potro will win out. Del Potro will have to survive a battle of the giants when he faces Ivo Karlovic, but I think he is up to the task, and then he will have to get past the #5 ranked fighter David Ferrer. I think Del Potro will be eager to avenge his 2011 Davis Cup defeat and perhaps remind himself of 2009 Miami where he easily defeated Ferrer 3 and 2.
Djokovic (SRB) vs. Del Potro (ARG):
This QF could go either way. Del Potro beat Djokovic on hard courts in Belgrade in the 2011 Davis Cup when Djokovic retired with a back muscle problem with Del Potro leading 7-6, 3-0. Prior to that, Del Potro had not beaten Djokovic in 4 previous tries. I think Del Potro prefers faster conditions.
I'll pick Novak Djokovic
to win here and advance to the semifinals.
Mr. Federer has a generally much easier draw through to the semifinals, than he had at Indian wells. His toughest opponent in his section of the quarter will likely be Andy Roddick. Roddick has done very well in Miami in the past with 2 titles to his credit. He's split against Federer in Miami - both times in 3 sets. An upset is remotely possible, however, Federer is in superb form, and Roddick is not. Federer should advance past Roddick.
In the other section of Federer's quarter, Nicolas Almagro played fairly well at Indian Wells, and I see him advancing to play the steadily improving (2009:162, 2010:61, 2011:32, current: 28) tall Kevin Anderson, whom I think will upset the declining #8 Mardy Fish. I think an Anderson vs Almagro match will be a toss up. Based on conditions I might give Almagro a very slight edge, but it could go the other way.
Roger Federer (SUI) vs. Nicolas Almagro (ESP) or Kevin Anderson (RSA)
Mr. Federer should not have trouble with either of these players. He's never played Anderson, but once he gets a read on his serve, he should beat him. Almagro's is 0-5 against Federer and lost to Federer in 2 sets in Miami 2007.
advances to the semifinals.
Rafael Nadal should take his section of the quarter without too much trouble. I think the match between Kei Nishikori and Marcel Granollers should be good, but I see Nishikori coming out on top to face Nadal. Nadal beat Nishikori last year in Miami 4 and 4, so the result should be in Nadal's favor.
The other section of Nadal's quarter, features some good players. Tsonga's match with Xavier Malisse might be tougher than people would think, and John Isner will have the Russian Nikolay Davydenko to contend with. Malisse beat Tsonga at Indian Wells 2011, but Tsonga later beat Malisse in Vienna. Tsonga's never done that well in Miami, but he lost in 2010 to Nadal and 2009 to Djokovic. Malisse's Miami record is even worse. This could go either way, but I'll pick Tsonga to overcome Malisse.
John Isner is coming off an excellent Indian Wells. Davydenko can surprise anyone, but he just isn't consistent enough, and I think Isner is stronger mentally. Isner should beat Davydenko, and face Tsonga. John Isner doesn't have a great record in Miami, and is 1-1 vs Tsonga in their H2H. Still with Isner's recent good form, I see him taking Tsonga down, to face Nadal in the quarterfinal.
Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. John Isner (USA)
Nadal has never won in Miami but has made it to 3 finals, losing close ones to Djokovic last year and Federer in 2005. I think John Isner is a bad "match-up" for Nadal, in that I don't think Nadal's most effective shot, the topspin forehand can bother the giant Isner. It will go right into Isner's strike zone. And if Isner serves like he did against Djokovic at IW, Nadal could be in serious trouble. Nadal will have to be at his very best to beat Isner on hard court, and from what I've seen of Nadal's backhand lately, I don't think he can do it. Nadal will have to prove that he is ready to start winning again.
Upset for Mr. Isner
to advance to the semifinal.
Murray's draw is difficult. His first challenge is likely to be the young, powerful serving Milos Raonic.
Murray's form from tournament to tournament is difficult to figure out. He beat Novak Djokovic in Dubai, but failed miserably to Garcia-Lopez in his first match at Indian Wells. In Miami, Murray won the tournament in 2009, beating Novak Djokovic, but lost in his first match in 2010 and 2011. How can you predict what he'll do here? Oh well, let's assume he has decent form this time. He's never faced Raonic, so Raonic might take the first set on his powerful serve. If Murray can get a read on it by the second set, I think he can overcome Raonic. IF not, goodbye Mr. Murray again. One of these days, Raonic is going to break through the top players, this might be the day. Even if Murray beats Raonic, he would then probably have to face either Jurgen Melzer or Gilles Simon. He's had no trouble with them, so he should get by them if he doesn't have a mental lapse. But then he would have to face the winner of the other section of his quarter.
In that section, David Nalbandian should handle Tipsarevic again as he just did at Indian Wells. Then Nalbandian would be likely to face Tomas Berdych. Berdych, like Andy Murray, blows hot and cold. He can surprise when you least expect it. But Nalbandian has handled Berdych in the past, and with Nalbandian's recent form, I see him beating Berdych.
David Nalbandian (ARG) vs. ?:
I put ? here, because I have almost no confidence in Andy Murray to play as he should from tournament to tournament. But let's say it plays to the seedings and Murray manages to get to the QF. Murray has handled Nalbandian in their last 4 meetings, but those have mostly been on faster conditions. I'm going to go with David Nalbandian to beat whomever shows up in this quarterfinal. It might even be Raonic, if Raonic can surprise Murray.
goes to the semifinal.
Djokovic (SRB) vs. Federer (SUI)
This match is very tough to pick. Roger Federer has been in incredible form lately and comes off a big win at Indian Wells. Novak Djokovic has not been quite as good since his win at the Australian Open, but I expect him to be highly motivated to recover his play here, or else he faces a clay season with no recent wins to give him confidence.
The ball doesn't generally bounce so high here, but conditions are usually slow due to the humidity. This will allow Djokovic to get to more balls, and force Federer to hit more risky aggressive shots. If Federer doesn't execute with precision (like he was unable to do at the Australian Open), he will lose. If he executes like Indian Wells, and continues to serve well, I think he will win.
It's very difficult to pick against Roger Federer
in the recent form he's been in and with his current level of confidence, but I'm going to have to flip a coin.
Tails, Novak Djokovic
wins. But it could easily go the other way.
David Nalbandian(ARG) vs. John Isner(USA)
This could be a hard fought and interesting match. Look at the results of the 2012 Australian Open:
Isner def Nalbandian 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5), 10-8
I think Isner's confidence is even higher now. So I give John Isner
a slight edge, though a Nalbandian win would not surprise me.
If it's John Isner (USA) vs. Novak Djokovic (SRB)
, I'll pick John Isner
to win again.
If it's John Isner (USA) vs. Roger Federer (SUI)
, I'll pick Roger Federer
to win again.